inconsistent news from southeast asia

Vietnam-Travelogue  |  Travel time: September 2005 - March 2006  |  by Matthew Audley

Catherine's Highlights of Vietnam

Catherine Sez:

Hanoi: All over
I really really enjoyed Hanoi city. All of it. Well, all of it that we saw. It was interesting how the city seemed to be divided into sections. If you wanted shoes, you went to the shoe section and there would be blocks and blocks of shoe stores right next to each other. They had camera sections, grave stone sections, matress sections, sports equipment sections...

It's Hanoi. Mat says to note the pointy hatS.

It's Hanoi. Mat says to note the pointy hatS.

And it also very dense as a city. I compared it to Saigon city as Saigon being the spread out version on Hanoi. The sidewalks were very small, the roads very narrow, not a BIT of space wasted! Although somehow I don't remember it as lacking greenery.

Lastly, there was a very odd lack of lotion. We went to every drug store we could find, and NONE of them had lotion. I wonder how they.... moisturize?

I wonder if there are any laws against... ?

I wonder if there are any laws against... ?

The War Remnants Museum in Saigon
Even though this wasn't the most happy afternoon I spent in Saigon, it was totally worth going to. The museum had old USA tanks and planes, a huge exhibition of very disturbing photographs, a section on the repercussions of agent orange, and a building showing tiger cages and torture devices. A must see for anyone who's feeling just a little TOO happy.

Sadly, I wasn't able to do the "Dr. Strangelove" pose

Sadly, I wasn't able to do the "Dr. Strangelove" pose

The Cu chi tunnels
Part of what made this experience really awsome was our tour guide. He was an older man who fought for the South Vietnamese during the sixties and seventies. When he spoke about the war, and the guerilla fighters he had this intensity in his voice that only someone who had been there would posess. It was almost like he was getting angry all over again. But don't get me wrong, he made lots (and I mean LOTS) of jokes about the "americans fat ass"! The guerilla sniper holes were big enough for the Vietnamese to get through, but the american soldiers could not fit because of their "big ass". This is also why Americans in Vietnam buy bigger motorbikes... you guessed it, to accomodate their big asses!! Luckily I don't think there were any Americans on the tour, or none who would own up to it!

The other WAY COOL part of the day was crawling through the tunnels!! I swear I wouldn't last more than a week if I had to live down there. It was HOT, and cramped, and dark, and ... I now know what it feels like to be a naked mole rat!

If you look at the figure past hot and sweaty Catherine, you'll see how much we had to crouch

If you look at the figure past hot and sweaty Catherine, you'll see how much we had to crouch

The tailors of Hoi An
Even though I didn't really plan on having any clothes made for myself, I could not resist after accompanying Mat to get his suit made. I can't pinpoint what exactly the strange pull was for me (maybe it was getting new clothes?!?!?!) , but I just had to get something made!! I rationailzed it by my not being able to get clothes elsewhere in South East Asia, as a result of my "western stature". Oh yeah, and because it was REALLY CHEAP!!!

Suit-action Mat!

Suit-action Mat!

The pointy hats!
This isn't my observation but very strange none the less. I'm stealing it from a guy we met on the "romantic" Halong Bay "cruise". We were talking about how even though the countries here are very close together, they each have their own distinct culture. "While we were crossing the Lao / Vietnam border, even though the two countries were separted only by a river, the Lao people did not wear hats. If you looked at the Vietnamese farmers, they were all wearing their cone hats, but on the Lao side - No hats!!" I find this strange because those hats are just the most awsome thing since sliced baguette! They keep your head shaded and allow air flow between the head and the hat! I'm surprised the hats haven't taken over the world!

Okay, he's not actually WEARING the pointy hat, but you'll see how it also makes a GREAT bicycle accessory.

Okay, he's not actually WEARING the pointy hat, but you'll see how it also makes a GREAT bicycle accessory.

The Saigon Water Park
It was a water park. It had a wave pool and rides. What made the day special was the fact that there were only about six of us (after the hordes and hordes of school children left).

It's quiet... a little TOO quiet.

It's quiet... a little TOO quiet.

The Singing:
As soon as we boarded the bus from Laos to Vietnam, it was very apparent that we were entering a country of singers. And I don't mean quiet humming - I mean wailing!! Where I come from, if someone is walking down the street singing really loudly, well, that's the kind of person who never has trouble finding a seat on the bus (Mat "Or they're a fine arts student!"). But in Vietnam it seems totally normal to sing along with any and all music whatsoever. Even the police we travelled to Hanoi with were having a mini-karaoke session on the bus! Throw in some choreographed dancing, and you got yourself a Disney movie!!

Talking about music is like dancing about credit cards.

Talking about music is like dancing about credit cards.

© Matthew Audley, 2005
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The trip
 
Description:
Leaving for bangkok on Sept. 12. Where we go from there is anyone's guess. Hoping to see Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos. Be back in six months or so if everything goes well. There really isn't much of a route planned - we'll see what happens.
Details:
Start of journey: Sep 12, 2005
Duration: 6 months
End of journey: Mar 19, 2006
Travelled countries: Thailand
Canada
Laos
Vietnam
Cambodia
Southeastern Asia
Malaysia
The Author
 
Matthew Audley is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 13 years.
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